234 A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
his song, but the grave Sheikh beside me remained imperturbable and impassive.
And then the entire assembly rose and the first three singers, together with the boy, moved with the utmost slowness inside the serried circles. As they took each slow pace they rolled their heads in unison, now downwards, now to the right and now to the left, repeating the long-drawn "Allah—AUah-ah-ah!" so many times that I could not count them. They wrung a sweet, melancholy melody out of that single word. Their bodies swayed from side to side in monotonous and exact rhythm. The two hundred men stood perfectly still, watching and listening for more than half an hour whilst the Dervishes circled amongst them with a perfect rhythm that never once abated. When at last the singers took their rest, their patient audience sank down to the dust once more. That the lattei was enjoying the scene was a thing beyond doubt.
Now followed an interval when tiny cups of coffee were served to ail the persons present, while the Mayor thoughtfully ordered little glasses of scented ksrkadi for me, a hot drink made from the flowers of a plant which grows in the Sudan. It is infused just like tea but has a somewhat acrid taste.
Sheikh Abu Shrump made no attempt to explain the night's function to me, We merely looked at each other from time to time; he knew that he could count upon my sympathy, whilst I knew the happiness he was feeling at the nocturnal invocation of Allah's presence. The thought came to me that somewhere in Europe and America, in the pleasure-haunts of great cities, thousands of other assemblies were listening to song and music, to jazz. But they were listening to song that was without God; they were enjoying themselves, true, getting some fun out of life, yet... ?
I told the aged Sheikh of my thought, and for answer he simply quoted a verse from the Quran:
"la your own selves are signs for men of firm faith, will ye not behold them? Think within thine own self on God, with lowliness and reverence and silence, at evening and at morn; and be not one of the heedless. To those only who lend an ear will He make an answer."
Here we sat, in this pool of yellow light, surrounded by a circle of darkness, attempting to turn our hearts towards adoration of the Supreme Power. We named the Nameless,